For observers bored by the lack of action in recent shareholder meetings, there is always a chance to see fireworks when JPMorgan’s (NYSE:JPM) annual event gets underway on May 21 in Tampa. There, disgruntled shareholders are going to state their case loudly that Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon ought to be censured via the removal of his chairmanship. Yet the chorus of Dimon supporters is proving capable of a sound defense.
For starters, JPMorgan’s lead director Lee Raymond endorsed the status quo in a letter intended for shareholders. William Weldon, who fronts the board’s governance committee, signed the letter with Raymond and together they characterized the London Whale debacle — for which Dimon is being assaulted — as a once-in-a-chairmanship type event. Focusing solely on this mistake, they suggested, would not be good for the company as a whole.
At the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) meeting last week, man-of-the-hour Warren Buffett made a point of offering his support for Dimon and the bank in general. Yet prominent investors Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholders Services continue to plug away in their hopes Dimon’s dual roles will be downgraded to a single role as chief executive. An editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times, meanwhile, described the actions toward Dimon as a “witch hunt” and defended the practice of one person holding both positions…
“I have come across no evidence that anything would be gained by separating those role,” wrote Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management. Sonnenfeld likened the ongoing flap to that at several other corporations where activist shareholders want to split the roles at the top, including Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Boeing (NYSE:BA). ”The leaders of these companies have delivered their shareholders excellent returns and are the envy of their industries…” Sonnenfeld continued.
Christopher Matthews of Time echoed this sentiment in an article published Thursday, saying “Dimon did as good a job as anyone could to reassure the markets and public of his and his firm’s competence” following the fiasco in London. As the shareholder meeting in Tampa looms on the calendar, it appears Dimon has enough backers both on the board and off to survive. Either way, observers eager for excitement should circle May 21 on their calendars.
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